Oly Millán, Héctor Navarro, Esteban Emilio Mosonyi, Gustavo Márquez Marín, Ana Elisa Osorio, Juan García Viloria, Santiago Arconada Rodríguez, Roberto López Sánchez, Edgardo Lander
Caracas, January 2021
To: Friends in the US Left and Progressive Movements
From: Citizens’ Platform in Defense of the Constitution (Venezuela)1
Subject: U.S. government policy towards Venezuela
The policy of the governments of the United States towards the Bolivarian process that began with the election of Hugo Chávez Frías as president in 1998, from its most democratic and participatory moments to the authoritarian and repressive drifts of recent years, has been one of direct and indirect intervention, politically and financially backing the extreme right-wing opposition and threatening the country economically and militarily. During these last two decades, this has been a bi-partisan policy, although with greater levels of aggressiveness during the Republican governments. The government of George W. Bush openly supported the failed coup d’état of 2002 and the oil strike of 2003. With the arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States, the offensive against Venezuela was notably intensified, expressed in the policy of regime change by undemocratic means, threats of military intervention, the progressive imposition of severe economic sanctions, and increased support for sectors of the extreme right in Venezuela.
Today, the Democratic Party controls the Presidency and both houses of Congress. With the political divide within that party, leading to a newly empowered progressive wing, and the extraordinary rise of progressive popular movements such as the Movement for Black Lives, and powerful movements for immigrant rights, environmental justice, women’s and indigenous rights and more, there is every reason for cautious optimism about the possibilities for change in US government policy. That certainly includes the possibility of change in the longstanding bipartisan US policies that have inflicted and continue to inflict so much harm upon the Venezuelan population.
Appealing to internationalism, which has historically constituted a central axis of struggles of the left and progressive forces throughout the world, we urge you to raise the most critical issues for which we require your solidarity.
1. Stop the economic sanctions imposed progressively since 2017. Although these sanctions are not the only cause of the severe economic and humanitarian crisis that the country is experiencing, they have played a major role in creating and deepening this crisis.
These sanctions have contributed to the practical paralysis of the oil industry, which for a century had been the main source of income for the country and on which the Venezuelan economy is highly dependent.2 Access to international credit and the possibilities of renegotiations of the foreign debt, has been blocked. Severe obstacles limit the import of basic food and medicine, as well as equipment and spare parts necessary for the deteriorated productive apparatus and the maintenance of essential services of the country.
As a result of these sanctions and the inefficiency and corruption of the Venezuelan government, the country’s economy has been in sustained decline for seven years. Today the gross domestic product is approximately 30% of what it was seven years ago. There is a severe food crisis in Venezuela today3, and child malnutrition has taken on dramatic dimensions. Health and education services, as well as most public services, are in a state of collapse. The indigenous peoples of Venezuela, and the environment have suffered severely from both national policies, particularly extractivist policies best illustrated by the Orinoco Mining Arch, as well as from the US sanctions. Given these conditions, and in the absence of prospects for change, more than five million people have emigrated from the country in recent years.
These economic sanctions constitute an open violation of international law, human rights, and the Geneva Conventions. They are not an alternative to war, but a form of war. The objective of blockades and economic sanctions is to produce the greatest possible harm and suffering of the population of the country subjected to such policies. In this, the sanctions have been extremely successful. Recognizing these impacts, opinion polls consistently record that a large majority of the population rejects sanctions. While a significant proportion of the population agrees with personal sanctions against government officials, only 5 percent express support for sanctions against the country’s economy.4
As international experience has shown time and again, economic sanctions are very ineffective instruments in terms of the supposed objectives of political change. However, they allow, among other things, that governments subject to sanctions to avoid responsibility for their failures by attributing all the problems faced by the population to these sanctions.
2. Withdraw recognition of Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela since he lacks both institutional legitimacy and popular support. The term of office of the National Assembly of which he was president ended in January 2020. At present, he does not exercise any elective position. He is an ex-congressman. According to the last survey by Datanálisis, 67.4% of the population has a negative opinion of Guaidó’s contribution to the country’s wellbeing. (Idem.)
3. Release the billions of dollars and assets belonging to the Venezuelan State that have been confiscated or blocked by the United States government. Mechanisms can be created so that, at least initially, these funds are managed jointly with the United Nations to be dedicated to responding to the humanitarian crisis. In the context of this severe crisis, which has been deepened by COVID-19, the withholding of these resources constitutes an openly criminal act.
4. Remove the blockade on access to funds in international organizations such as the IMF and other multilateral organizations, funds to which the Venezuelan State has a legitimate right.
5. Abandon the policy of regime change. It is not up to the government of the United States to decide who should govern Venezuela. This is a sovereign decision that only belongs to Venezuelans. Beyond the speeches, the history of US policy towards Latin America can be characterized by everything but democratic aims. Time and again, democratic governments with popular orientations like that of Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala or Salvador Allende in Chile were overthrown with the direct intervention of the United States, while authoritarian and genocidal governments like that of Pinochet in Chile and the Argentine military junta (taking into account only recent history) had their full support. The policy of regime change is not guided by democratic motivations, but by the objective of crushing, both in the Venezuelan population and in the whole of Latin America, any idea of possible changes that would go against the interests of hegemonic groups in the United States. The idea of regime change seeks not only the substitution of a president but the defeat of every imaginary of possible transformation.
6. Stop using US government policies towards Latin America as instruments of internal political convenience, as has been the case with the search for votes of the Cuban and Venezuelan immigrant communities in Florida.
7. Recognize that the Venezuelan population has the right to sovereignly decide its destiny. In 2020 the US government systematically intervened, pressuring the radical rightwing opposition to reject any negotiated solution. That led to the opposition refusal to participate in elections, hoping to precipitate the fall of the government. The refusal systematically blocked any possibility of negotiation. Today the majority of the Venezuelan population wants a change of government. 92% of the population has a negative perception of the situation in the country, and 82% have a negative evaluation of Nicolas Maduro as president. (Idem). As was mentioned above, more than two thirds of the population also have a negative opinion of Juan Guaidó. The population wants change, but not any change, not change by any means. Violent alternatives to the present situation are amply rejected, be it a coup d’état, a civil war, or an external military intervention. The experiences of Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan are painfully present. All opinion polls indicate that the majority of the Venezuelan population aspires to reach a political agreement, a democratic, constitutional, electoral solution to the current Venezuelan crisis. Every time this possibility has appeared on the horizon, as was the case in the negotiations sponsored by the government of Norway, it has been blocked by the government of the United States.
We believe that solidarity from the U.S. left is fundamental to the achievement of these goals.
For the Citizen’s Platform in Defense of the Constitution
- The Citizen’s Platform in Defense of the Constitution is a leftist political collective that during the last five years has been working towards the recovery of the 1999 Constitution that has been ignored and systematically violated, both by the government of Nicolás Maduro and by sectors of the right-wing opposition, with the support of the United States government.
- Datanalysis. Encuesta Nacional Ómnibus, Caracas, octubre 2020. https://p7adpx5pkjd6.cdn.shift8web.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Informe-Oe%CC%8Cmnibus-Octubre-2020-PROFIT_compressed.pdf